Wow. Survivor really decided to bring the crazy this season didn’t they? Between Phillip, Shamar, and Brandon there is plenty of insanity to go around. But is it really making for an enjoyable season? When does the exploitation of someone’s mental state cross the line from good old fashion entertainment to down right cruelty and absurdity? Can the producers, casting department, and psychologists really detect someone who is truly mentally unstable or just being aloof for TV purposes? Is it fair of us to expect them to forecast expectations of behavior? I know, I know, it’s a TV show. Furthermore, it’s a REALITY TV show. But since this is the hot topic this week after Wednesday night’s disaster that was Survivor Caramoan, I’m curious to hear what people think.
I wasn’t excited when Phillip and Brandon were cast this season. I thought it was stunt casting to be quite honest with you. Phillip I thought was just a bad player. The only reason to bring him back is because he is nuts and to watch his insanity rankle the other players in the game. The whole Stealth R Us thing, while mildly entertaining for the viewers, I can imagine it wearing really thin out there. So I was dead set against Phillip this season. However, I have to say, as annoying as he can be, I give him props for many things. The first being that he’s been great in the challenges. Of course everyone expected Malcolm and Brenda to do well because they’re great athletes. But I don’t think people expected much from Phillip and he’s held his own and actually has been a pretty integral part of them willing several challenges…including this week’s coconut tossing competition. The second would be him really trying to take charge of the game. Many people, myself included, really gave Phillip grief for riding the Boston Rob train the last time he was on. He was Boston Rob’s stooge willing to do whatever his master told him to do. And Rob rode Phillip to $1 million. This time, it seems, Phillip is taking charge of the game and not riding anyone’s coat tails. Now he may be rubbing people the wrong way in the process and I’m not saying he’s doing a masterful job at running the show. But he’s at least not waiting for his fate to befall him. He is going out and taking charge and charting his own course to what he thinks will be the million dollar prize. Will he succeed? Who knows at this point. His biggest problem is that he doesn’t know how to take charge of the game subtly. He needs to let everyone know he’s in charge and that may be his downfall. Is it because of how poorly he was painted in his last showing? Perhaps. But Phillip Shepard needs to let everyone know that he’s in control and that you’re either with him or against him. The final reason I’m giving Phillip props is for how he handled the Brandon situation. Unfortunately, because of what I just outlined in point #2, Phillip really rubbed, inadvertently, in Brandon’s face how he will dictate Brandon’s fate in the game. Not the smartest move on Phil’s part. But does that mean he deserved what Brandon did to him (and everyone else on the tribe for that matter?) No. I’ll get more into the Brandon thing in a minute but I really applaud Phillip for walking away from him at camp when he was really getting to a boiling point and I respect the way he held his composure when Brandon was coming after him before the immunity challenge that was never going to take place. The only thing he did wrong, was talk about Brandon’s family. In my opinion, leave everyone’s personal life out of it. Just stick to what’s happening on the island because you don’t know these people, you don’t know their home life, so you can’t judge or throw that in their face. Just leave it alone. Other than that, Phillip kept his calm in handling Brandon. Honestly the whole tribe did, which floored me, but again, more on that later. Was I happy with the Phillip casting this season? No. Is working my nerves as much as before? Not yet. Do I respect his game play more this time than last? Yes I do.
So let’s get into Brandon. I seriously think that kid’s unstable. I’m not saying that to be funny or rude. I seriously think there is something wrong with him. He was crazy the first time he played and he was just as crazy this time. The first time around, he got rid of Mikalya because she filled him with impure thoughts of lust. Well I can’t see a better reason to get rid of someone! Plus his mood was all over the place…completely bi-polar. One day he was up, the next he was down, then he was kind, then he was rude. He didn’t know who or what he wanted to be. He wanted to be filled with God but then he would curse and threaten people. It was bizarre. So why would we expect anything less this time around? Because, according to Jeff Probst and other producers, they thought he had changed. Let’s talk about this. Probst and the producers/casting department have been getting a lot of heat for bringing back Brandon. The thought out there is that even though they knew he was unstable, they put him out there anyway because they thought he would bring in ratings. If this is true (and I’m not saying it is) it would be dumb on so many levels. Number one because this kid doesn’t bring ratings, he actually stops them. I know people who didn’t watch this season because he was on there. They couldn’t deal with another Hantz love fest, especially with “the crazy kid” as one of my friend’s put it. Number two, you can’t risk putting a mentally unstable young man in an environment that will test his sanity everyday. Number three, you can’t do that to the other contestants (making them live with a crazy person) it’s unfair to them. I could go on and on. So I honestly believe that while they may have been nervous about Brandon, they saw enough in him to warrant giving him a second chance on the show. Where I will give up on Survivor, is if they decide to bring him back a third time. I can forgive a mistake now. But after two disastrously mercurial seasons with Brandon, bringing him back again would be down right abhorrent. He has proven to be a truly hot mess. The fact that he has kids and another one on the way is down right scary. And I know I just yelled at Phillip for judging someone’s personal life without knowing them so I am being the ultimate hypocrite, but I can’t help it. I’ve seen and heard interviews with this kid outside of Survivor and to say it was bizarre is an understatement. He’s usually incoherent and flighty, to be kind. It’s frightening to hear his complete lack of self-awareness. He really has no clue. I heard Probst say that they immediately had a psychologist on set to talk to Brandon after the whole debacle and that it is standard for the show to appoint a psychologist or psychiatrist to help Survivors after the show or help them find a doctor in their area for support. That’s actually nice to hear. And I hope Brandon takes them up on it, but I doubt he will. In an interview with Dalton Ross (who is the best Survivor recapper ever) on his podcast, Brandon talked about how great life is and he’s great and he’s not crazy and that he’s so proud of the way he played the game. What????? You’re proud that you took food and dumped it all over the island so that no one in your tribe would have food. That makes you proud? Whatever bro (as he likes to call everyone.) Speaking of the food dump, is that not the most insane thing you have seen on this show? I’ve obviously never been on Survivor but even I know that food is like gold out there. All you have is rice and now they give you beans. But that’s it. You’re weak and tired and the only sustenance you have is rice and beans. And that asshole, to prove some sort of point (I’m still not sure what) dumps it all over the ground. What I found interesting is that Malcolm or Erik didn’t pile drive him to the ground during the rice part. I know when he grabbed the bean container Erik made a half ass attempt to retrieve it from Brandon but he backed down pretty fast. I have to wonder if it’s because they were seriously afraid of what he might do. At this point they’ve all been living together for what 11-13 days? Maybe everyone was really terrified of him because he was so unstable. I’m not trying to make this more dramatic than it was, but it does make sense. I mean come on….when they got back from tribal council, he was talking about how he thought about burning the shelter down!!! If I was Corrine, my first question would have been “with us in it?” Yeah he was talking about peeing in the rice and beans, but HE TALKED ABOUT BURNING THE SHELTER TO THE GROUND! What is the matter with him? That is why I sincerely hope the rumors about Brandon failing his psych test for the show are wrong. Because that would be beyond egregious.
So because of all this mayhem, the Favorites decide to do what I absolutely hate in Survivor…throw the challenge to go to tribal council so they can get rid of Brandon. I hate when teams do this. It’s the dumbest thing in the world. You’re annoyed by someone, you’re up by big numbers, and you think it’s no big deal to throw one little challenge. WRONG. It’s absolutely the worst idea ever. However, this situation was the exception to that. In this situation, I have no problem with the Favorites doing what they did. This was beyond someone annoying them. I really think this was them wanting this ticking time bomb, who could possibly be a danger to himself or someone else (mainly Phillip) off the island because it was safer for all of them. I really believe that. Look at the way they all dealt with Brandon. When he became accusatory towards any of them, they backed down. Even Corrine, who’s as combative and strong and nasty as they come, wouldn’t touch him with a 50 foot pole. And I have to say, HUGE props to Jeff Probst for his handling of the situation. Even though the man rubbing was a little weird, I don’t think Jeff could have handled it any better. It was obvious this could have escalated into something physical (especially when Phillip when after Brandon’s family.) Probst did the smart thing by bringing Brandon over to him and away from his tribe. He was able to calmly talk to Brandon and everyone else so he could get a clear idea of what was happening and how this was all going down. As a result, he had a tribal council right there where everyone voted him out. I have to wonder what would happen if something did get physical on the island. Is there security there? Do the producers expect the contestants to handle it? Would someone get kicked off the island or put in time out? What would happen? I wonder if they have a protocol in place. I’m sure that they do. And if they didn’t, I’m sure that they do now!!
Ultimately, I’m glad Brandon is gone. I think it was a monstrous mistake to bring him back and all of us fans at home thought the same thing. I don’t think I read one pre-Caramoan review that said what a brilliant idea it was to bring back Brandon. But, we’re also looking at it from just the scope of his first run on TV. These producers are really vetting these contestants to make sure they can do this again. At least I hope they are. So they get to see more of Brandon in a different light than what we get to see. Therefore, they made the decision to go for it and it blew up in their face. I really hope this is the last time we see any Hantz on Survivor. And I really hope they think long and hard about who they bring back and who they cast. I know they want personalities because that brings better ratings. And there’s nothing wrong with drama on Survivor…it’s part of what makes the show so great. I get all that. But I think they really need to draw the line at unstable. Because if they don’t, the very thing they are trying to get, is the very thing they will push away and be gone to the point they won’t be able to get it back and the show will be dead.